Twisting the Fig

Long exposure of a red hot metal circle spinning fast and throwing sparks in all direction. Source image ‘Spin Arts’ (link) by darkday (link) is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (link).

Welcome back. Last time we spoke we were stuck, wondering which way is up and out for Figular, spinning furiously, getting dizzy.

One things is clear: right now Figular is not that useful. We could look at that in two ways:

It’s not useful - we should stop now.


It’s not useful yet - we should make more.

Revisiting Figular’s problem scenarios and alternatives convinces me there are things that Figular does better than anything available today:

  • Placing multiple figures together with titles and annotations, all through code, thereby expanding what is possible to accomplish in plain text.
  • Providing figures like borders, labels, adornments and simple conceptual illustrations that might otherwise need to be drawn in a drawing package.
  • Letting you work in your preferred text/code editor/IDE for longer, avoiding context switches.
  • Sharing useful figures with others and reusing their work.

These advantages need to be shown not told, what we have today is insufficient. This has led to an initial sketch of an MVP and a pile of spikes to start working out the detail. Follow the progress on our roadmap as we work through them.


It’s important to be creative and realistic, it’s just hard to be both at once. So separate the two: conduct an exhaustive search for ideas first, then shoot them down and see what survives. Brainstorm then brainsnipe.

Brainstorming done correctly suspends criticism, as it is known to limit ideas and participation. Once the brains are charged up just let them go, don’t get in the way. Cutting down a ‘bad’ idea might also cut off the brilliant idea that was just a couple more steps on.

This suspension of judgement is important but temporary. Once you have exhausted your ideas it’s time for brainsniping. At a separate time and place search for the weaknesses and faults. This is a different mindset altogether - like conducting a penetration test. Now you are on the attack team and nothing is safe or sacred.

If you can get good at both sides of the process then you’ll emerge with creative, strong ideas. Maybe.